Be Brave. Even when you're not.

noelward

Well-known member
By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

I just got off a con call with some clients that sell printing equipment and supplies throughout North America. With a bunch of people in all four U.S. time zones I think we were pushing the edges of the Go To Meeting servers, but we got it all done. But that’s not what this story is about. One of the things we discussed on the call was the opportunity the evolving coronavirus situation presents for print providers, especially those in the labels, packaging and signage space. This comes in a couple of ways.

First, there may be fresh opportunities to print and sell more—especially in packaging—during a slower or weakened economy. A stroll through many retailers, especially grocery stores, shows lots of empty shelves. The goods that go on these shelves will need replacing ASAP, and if you have packaging contracts with the brand owners you may already be getting besieged with orders to print more than you usually do heading into the 2nd quarter of the year. Some of the companies I’ve spoken with said customers were buying more ink, substrates and other supplies to meet the demand they were seeing. I guess its the upside of a downturn, at least for a little while.

Second, and related to the first, is that this may be a good time to buy some capital equipment. Vendors are going to be feeling the pinch and be more open to cutting some deals to move iron they have in stock and help stabilize their production lines. Whether and how you cut deals is up to you, but the opportunity may be there. Directly related to this is the Fed’s cut in interest rates. This may or may not apply to your business, but the terms of loans and lease deals may be a bit more favorable. So if new capital equipment is in the budget for 2020, now may a good time to pull the trigger. Of course, talk with your financial advisor before the ink leaves the pen.

Lead from the front
Some bigger thinking, and my real point today, comes not from that con call but from broader thinking about managing your business in uncertain times. As the relative stability we are all accustomed to morphs into a temporary or new normal, you have to be ready to lead from the front. Someone has to, and whether you occupy an office in the C-Suite or are a worker bee managing a crew of people, there are three important things to do in this uncertain hour.

Communicate
Short moments on the shop floor, in hallways or around coffee machines are where many important interactions take place. These are the conversations that foster trust, create synergy, and build confidence. For example, people worry about being laid off, so to the extent that you can, assure employees that the business will keep adapting adapt its processes and behaviors to keep the ship afloat. Be sure to loop in employees who work offsite so they know how to share work and information as your company faces the present challenges.

Keep goals realistic
These days are anything but business as usual, but you can still succeed. Be honest with your teams about what can and cannot be done in the weeks and months ahead, especially as uncertainty and disruption ripple across the land. Let them know things will be rough, and that not everything will go as planned. Let your teams know that you are revising objectives, targets and timelines, and tell them what you expect from them. This helps keep your crews involved, focused on goals that they understand, and (hopefully) see as achievable. Above all, do not keep people in the dark. This ruins morale and diminishes trust when you can least afford it.

Be brave
Navigating coronavirus is terra incognito for just about everyone. Keep in mind that some employees may have family members infected with the virus or are concerned about a family member becoming ill. This creates a new and unfamiliar level of stress that may change how they act at work. So be the adult in the room. Make sure your managers are, too. Be understanding of their needs for time off and let them know they can talk with you. As a leader, be a rock, be calm, and be steady. I think of a poster I saw with a photo of a full grown male lion and a little lion cub. The caption was, “Be brave. Even when you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.”
 

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